jordan peterson freedom of speech trial
Psychologist-turned-social media personality Dr. Jordan Peterson has filed a judicial review application with the Ontario Divisional Court after the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO) ordered him to undergo a "coaching program" of remedial education based on his alleged behavior on social media and public forums.

"I am mounting a constitutional challenge but have little faith in the remaining integrity of the Canadian judiciary," Peterson tweeted.

This follows a bizarre development when the CPO - the profession's regulatory body - has demanded Peterson submit himself to "mandatory social-media communication retraining." Failure to comply seems to connote risking a disciplinary hearing and a possibility for the psychologist to lose his license.

"I am to take a course of such training (with reports documenting my "progress") or face an in-person tribunal and suspension of my right to operate as a licensed clinical psychologist," Peterson added.

Peterson's Twitter page is one of the accounts that Elon Musk unilaterally reinstated along with former US President Donald Trump and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

In the undertaking CPO asked Peterson to sign, the regulatory is making the psychologist admit that he "may have lacked professionalism in public statements made on social media and during a January 25, 2022, podcast appearance." He stated that he refused to comply to the organization's order.

"About a dozen people from all over the world submitted complaints about my public statements on Twitter and Rogan over a four year period (out of the 15 million who follow me on social media) claiming that I had 'harmed' people (not them) with my views," Peterson noted.

In the said podcast episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Peterson claimed that there is "no such thing as climate" in the context of challenging climate advocates who say that "climate change is everything."

"This is something that bothers me about [climate change], technically. It's like 'climate is about everything.' But your models aren't based on everything... How did you decide what set of variables to include in the equation if it's about everything," the psychologist said on the podcast. "So, is this a crisis of everything?"

"Even if the climate models are right, the error bars are so wide by a hundred years out that we'll never be able to measure the effects of the changes we're making now. We'll never know if the changes we're making to 'save the climate' actually work, we can't measure it," Peterson added, expounding that the margin of error for prediction models are not accounting for the future.

The document also said that Peterson will shoulder the retraining costs at an hourly rate not exceeding $225 as established by CPO policy.

While this seems like a disciplinary matter for the profession, Peterson took it upon himself to make "what is happening public."

"If the public believes I'm guilty then I will take the required course of communication and then resign... If, however, your [CPO's] allegations are revealed publicly to be both baseless and politically motivated then a public apology and the resignation of everyone involved in the process on your side is appropriate," Peterson tweeted.

He then tweeted a poll asking his followers who should apologize and resign between him and CPO, with results leaning to a wide lead in favor of Peterson.

Peterson also underscored that the castigation by the CPO stems from "agreeing with [Leader of the Official Opposition Pierre Poilievre] and criticizing our standing [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau]," adding that "we are now in a situation in Canada under [Trudeau] where practicing professionals can have their livelihoods and public reputations threatened in a very serious manner for agreeing with the Official Opposition and criticizing major government figures."

The psychologist shared the letter he wrote to Trudeau regarding the situation, pointing out that "political criticism has now become such a crime in Canada."

"I am not suggesting or even presuming that you or any of the people associated with you had anything directly to do with this. However, the fact that it is happening (and that physicians and lawyers have become as terrified as psychologists now are of their own regulatory bodies) is something that has definitely happened on your watch, as a consequence of your own conduct and the increasingly compulsion-based and ideologically pure policies that you have promoted and legislated," Peterson wrote.

He also noted that the complaints "were brought by people with whom [he] had zero clinical contact; have nothing whatsoever to do with [his] function as a clinical psychologist; and that half of them involve nothing more than political criticisms of [Trudeau] or the people around [Trudeau]."

In an opinion piece on National Post, Peterson further expounded on his position, declaring that he would rather "risk [his] license to escape social media re-education."

"I should also point out that the steps already taken constitute the second most serious possible response to my transgressions on the part of the college. I have been placed in the category of repeat offender, with high risk of further repetition," Peterson wrote. "What exactly have I done that is so seriously unprofessional that I am now a danger not only to any new potential clients but to the public itself?"

The CPO claims it is unable to discuss why it is purportedly taking disciplinary action against Peterson and attempting to impose social media training on him. According to Rick Morris, the college's executive director, the college is "not authorized to discuss this matter" according to Ontario privacy legislation.

What has he done?

Peterson rose to prominence in 2016 after publicly opposing particular elements of legislation that would add transgender protections to Canada's human rights codes.

His private practice has been suspended since 2017, when he claims "my rising notoriety or fame made continuing as a private therapist practically and ethically impossible." Nonetheless, in 2018, Peterson agreed to a plan to improve his clinical practice; while there are few details of what constituted professional misconduct, the complaint against him had to do with the quality of his service, psychologist/patient boundaries, and the way he communicates with his patients.

"Every single one of these accusations (and now accepted evidence of my professional misconduct) is independent of my clinical practice โ€” which, by the way, has been suspended since 2017... Every single accusation is not only independent of my clinical practice, but explicitly political โ€” and not only that: unidirectionally explicitly political," Peterson wrote in his National Post piece.

He cited four specific complaints in his piece discussing the recent CPO mandate, including making a joke about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, retweeting Poilievre, and criticizing Trudeau and his former principal secretary Gerald Butts, whom Peterson called a "stunningly corrupt and incendiary fool" in February, prompting Butts to threaten legal retaliation.

Peterson has yet to make public the details of any remaining complaints, other than to say that he is accused of being "sexist, transphobic, incapable of the requisite body positivity in relationship to morbid obesity, and, unforgivably, a climate change denialist" in the complaints.

Among his statements that got him in hot water included referencing transgender actor Elliot Page by his former name, "Ellen" - an act called deadnaming, calling a former client "vindictive," and taking a sarcastic jab at anti-growth environmentalists for not caring that their energy plans are killing more third world children.

But the colorful remarks Peterson have put out can't seem to quite draw a direct line to his profession, the very thing the college is only allowed to regulate in the psychologist's life. Distasteful as they may be for some, these statements don't necessarily support a standing ground in proving that Peterson is a danger in the practice of his profession, thereby threatening a loss of his license.

However, freedom of speech, like every right, has also a responsibility for the content even if it has a negative effect. It is arguable, though, that Peterson is already being penalized on his public statements by the public - unfollows, angry retorts, even defamation to an extent - which are all functions of freedom of speech. If the content of his speech is the problem, then that should be the focus of the discussion which the CPO can also participate in but cannot regulate.

But if it's about his practice of his profession, the college is expected to oversee and discipline the psychologist. Outside that, it seems that freedom of speech is going to be put on trial, not Peterson.